CMS Releases Blanket Waivers to Relax Certain FQHC Workforce and Site Restrictions
On April 22nd, CMS released blanket waivers that included changes related to FQHC staffing requirements and site locations for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Certain Staffing Requirements. 42 CFR 491.8(a)(6). CMS is waiving the requirement in the second sentence of § 491.8(a)(6) that a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or certified nurse- midwife be available to furnish patient care services at least 50 percent of the time the RHC and FQHC operates. CMS is not waiving the first sentence of § 491.8(a)(6) that requires a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, certified nurse-midwife, clinical social worker, or clinical psychologist to be available to furnish patient care services at all times the clinic or center operates. This will assist in addressing potential staffing shortages by increasing flexibility regarding staffing mixes during the Public Health Emergency (PHE).
Physician Supervision of NPs in RHCs and FQHCs. 42 CFR 491.8(b)(1). CMS is modifying the requirement that physicians must provide medical direction for the clinic’s or center’s health care activities and consultation for, and medical supervision of, the health care staff, only with respect to medical supervision of nurse practitioners, and only to the extent permitted by state law. The physician, either in person or through telehealth and other remote communications, continues to be responsible for providing medical direction for the clinic or center’s health care activities and consultation for the health care staff, and medical supervision of the remaining health care staff. This allows RHCs and FQHCs to use nurse practitioners to the fullest extent possible and allows physicians to direct their time to more critical tasks.
Temporary Expansion Locations. CMS is waiving the requirements at 42 CFR §491.5(a)(3)(iii) which require RHCs and FQHCs be independently considered for Medicare approval if services are furnished in more than one permanent location. Due to the current PHE, CMS is temporarily waiving this requirement removing the location restrictions to allow flexibility for existing RHCs/ FQHCs to expand services locations to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries. This flexibility includes areas which may be outside of the location requirements 42 CFR §491.5(a)(1) and (2) but will end when the HHS Secretary determines there is no longer a PHE due to COVID-19.